In the summer of 1953, after graduating from college, I worked as a counselor at Camp Winamac in New Hampshire [I think].The oddest camper was a boy from New York who was a pathological liar. He told huge, absurd, self-aggrandizing obviously false lies about himself and his family, a practice that made him a constant butt of ridicule from the other campers. I had never encountered anyone like him, and his behavior puzzled me. He clearly had nothing to gain from the lies; quite the contrary. I could not tell whether he believed them, in any usable sense of the word “believed.” There was no point to them, no consistency in them. If we were going swimming, he would claim he had once swum the English Channel. If parents’ weekend was approaching, he would say his father was the richest man in America. If we arranged for some campers to go horseback riding at a nearby stable, he would say his parents had twenty horses on their estate, one of which had won the Kentucky Derby.
That was sixty-seven years ago, and I have never encountered another compulsive liar of that sort, at least not until now. I wondered then, and I wonder now, what twisted, abortive, punitive, crippled childhood produces them. At least that little boy did not grow up to be President of the United States.